Original Cross-Country Road Trip – Day 123

The Original Cross-Country Road Trip

Day 123 – August 1, 2003 – Friday

The Vermont experience began well last night with the four really nice people at the very nice Hawthorn Suites in Burlington. First impressions are so important! That’s why the best companies pay so much attention to hiring and retaining the right receptionists. I saw Robin (must be the manager and/or owner) again when I checked out, and I met Jason and Nancy. They did not have any suggestions for pie, but they did give me information on how to find the Chamber of Commerce, as my first mission for the day was to find the home of Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson.

In the spring of 1903, Dr. Jackson of Burlington, Vermont set off from San Francisco in a 20-horsepower Winton touring car hoping to become the first person to cross the United States in an automobile. The trip was prompted by a $50 bet. Back in 1903, there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire country. There were no gas stations and virtually no road maps as we know them today. A 20 horsepower car. 1903, when cars had been developed for just a few years. Dirt roads and no roads. No gas stations. No road maps. And if all that isn’t insurmountable enough, Dr. Jackson had only a few hours of driving experience. This sounded absolutely impossible.

But Dr. Jackson took the bet and took off. He was accompanied by co-driver Sewall K. Crocker and a bulldog named Bud (who wore goggles to keep the dust from his eyes, just as Dr. Jackson did). During the trip, Dr. Jackson learned that the bet had turned his trip into something of a race. Both Packard and Oldsmobile dispatched their own autos from California in the hopes of passing him and gaining the publicity of being first across the nation. Dr. Jackson’s car broke down repeatedly. Parts had to be sent by train and stagecoach. The challenges and problems were immense. But sixty-three and a half days after leaving San Francisco, Dr. Jackson arrived triumphantly into New York City and claimed the honor for himself (and won the $50 bet).

Needless to say, when I learned about Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson (the first transcontinental road tripper) while doing the research for our trip Round America (with four transcontinental crossings), I wanted to find something about him in Burlington. No one at the hotel knew anything about him, so I figured the Visitor Information Office of the Chamber of Commerce was the next place to ask.

At the Chamber office, I met Lisa, Tre, and Melissa. As at the hotel, they had never heard of Dr. Jackson. I explained that he was a native of Burlington who was the first person to drive cross country in an automobile. My research provided details about Dr. Jackson, but I had been unable to find any information about an address in Burlington. Both Lisa and Tre jumped on the Internet and began pulling up data. There is a book about the trip called “The Mad Doctor’s Drive” by Ralph Nading Hill, published in 1961. We were all surprised to learn that PBS was to air a documentary about Dr. Jackson and his trip in October 2003 starring TOM HANKS! On the centennial of Jackson’s achievement, Ken Burns and Florentine Films had made a documentary film that follows his historic and apparently hilarious journey. “Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip” is a two hour film. Tom Hanks is the voice of Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson.

I looked forward to seeing the show…but I still needed an address. The ladies asked some other folks in the office, and one man said he thought he had read something about Dr. Jackson in the local newspaper. I thanked everyone and got the phone number for the paper. The receptionist at the paper connected me to the newsroom, and the newsroom person who answered tracked down the writer who did a story about Dr. Jackson. The writer gave me very precise directions to the house — at the corner of Willard Street and Main Street. This was much easier than the Perky Bat Tower. The house couldn’t have been easier to find. It’s now the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity house, and there were big Greek letters on the front. There was no memorial to Dr. Jackson, and the house probably looked a lot nicer when Dr. Jackson lived there, but I snapped a few photos and considered it a success.

Burlington has FIVE colleges. While I was taking photos of the Fiji House, I met Kris. She asked if I had been to Mardi Gras. She works in PR for Champlain College.

The Chamber ladies also had two tips for pie, and I decided breakfast pie should be next. I drove to Malletts Bay and went into Dick Mazza’s General Store. Whole pies were stacked on the counter right next to the cash register. I chose a Pineapple Pie since that was a type of pie that we had not yet enjoyed on the trip. I grabbed a couple of napkins and some plastic forks, and I enjoyed two “pieces” of pie as I drove back to Burlington. I met Sherry near the forks; she asked about the beads. My whole pie was only $4.99, and I enjoyed it for several days! It had a great homemade crust like Grandma used to make.

I visited the Ethan Allen Homestead. Traffic is really bad in the Burlington area.

The first tour of the day was the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. Jonah was our tour guide. It was an entertaining tour — though there’s apparently not a lot to the making of teddy bears. Vermont Teddy Bear makes expensive teddy bears, and they sell a variety of clothing and accessories for their bears. You can help build your own bear in their huge teddy bear shop, but I couldn’t wait in line that long.

Shelburne Museum was next. Shelburne Museum is Vermont’s largest museum. It’s a collection of collections displayed in a setting of 39 exhibition structures on 45 acres of gardens and landscaped grounds. The items on display include folk art, Americana, 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, quilts and textiles, decorative arts and furniture, tools, toys, native American artifacts, European Impressionist paintings, horse-drawn vehicles, period houses, contemporary architecture, carousel horses, miniature circuses, and much more. There are over 150,000 objects on display. 25 of the 39 buildings are historic structures moved to the museum grounds from throughout New England. These include a meeting house, general store, covered bridge, several historic houses, a Lake Champlain lighthouse, and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga.

As I toured this huge museum, I couldn’t help but wonder what we might be seeing if Electra Havemeyer Webb (who bought all this stuff) had married Harold G. Warp, the inventor of the baggie who spent a fortune collecting the seemingly millions of items on display at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska. It would have been a match made in collector heaven. The Havemeyers made their money with Domino’s Sugar.

Shelburne Museum was very interesting to see. The displays are extremely well done. Mrs. Webb had excellent taste, and she bought only the best. I was blown away by the circus building. It is a curved horseshoe-shaped building that was built for the purpose of housing a 125-foot carved miniature circus parade display — so the parade could be shown in one continuous line as the parade would have been. All the buildings were as authentic as could be, and the grounds are beautiful. There were two special exhibits. I especially enjoyed “Red, White, and Blue: American Patriotic Images.”

From the Shelburne Museum, I drove to Shelburne Farms. It was too late for a tour, but this farm was financed by a Vanderbilt heiress, and it is something.

I walked around the Church Street Marketplace in downtown Burlington. I stopped at Henry’s Diner for dinner. I enjoyed my Fish and Chips. Marty was my waitress, and she was great — very personable. Several of the folks asked about the beads. I sat at the counter and enjoyed all the action as the waitresses placed their orders and picked up their food while the cooks kept everything moving. I met owners Bev and Brad.

On the highway between Burlington and Waterbury are two whale’s tails buried in the ground. Jim Sardonis sculpted the two 13-foot high tails from six tons of black granite. He did the work in 1988 for David Threlkeld, who planned to use them in front of a motel and conference center. It seems that the financing fell through, and I’m guessing Mr. Threlkeld might not have ever paid for them. I’m not sure how or why they got moved to the side of Highway 89 on a hillside south of Burlington.

Waterbury is the home of Ben & Jerry’s. What an incredible success story! Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in the same junior high school gym class in Merrick, Long Island. In 1978, they decided to go into business together. They paid $5 for a correspondence course from Penn State on ice cream manufacturing. Then they took their life savings of $8,000, and they converted an old abandoned gas station in Burlington, Vermont into the original Ben & Jerry’s. They built an incredibly successful business that shares its success with its employees and the community…and has fun doing it.

The tour was informative and fun. Sarah was the tour guide. She commented on my beads, so she was soon wearing her own. The best parts of the tour were the introductory movie and the clippings and stories displayed in the “Hall of Fame.” Free samples were provided at the end of the tour, and I enjoyed a big cup of Cherry Garcia, the #1 flavor. The Flavor Graveyard was fun. There are tombstones with clever stories about each of the flavors that Ben & Jerry’s has discontinued.

After leaving Ben & Jerry’s, I saw a sign that said: “God Answers Knee Mail.” I thought that was clever. I saw many signs today for moose crossings, but I’ve never seen a live moose. I’ve seen fiberglass, cement, plastic, and fabric mooses, but I still haven’t seen a real, live, honest-to-goodness moose.

It was a fun-filled day. Vermont is really beautiful, and while it drizzled rain all day, it didn’t detract too much.

The Comfort Inn in Montpelier, the smallest capital in the 50 states, was my home for the night. Laundry night. Dianne got me all squared away at the hotel — an especially nice Comfort Inn.

The lesson today was the power of determination and perseverance. Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson made a commitment to be the first person to drive a car across the United States from San Francisco to New York City. He was determined to do what no one had ever done before, and despite tremendous obstacles and problem after problem, he had the perseverance and the determination to achieve his goal. I have seen again and again that those who set a goal or establish an objective and really persevere in their efforts to meet their goals are successful, while those who lack perseverance often fail. I am absolutely amazed and inspired by what Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson managed to do.

Random Comments:

Vermont is a nice state! I thoroughly enjoyed the day here.

It’s hard to believe it’s August. The trip started on April 1, so this is the fifth month of Round America. Less than three weeks left. When people ask about the trip now, they often congratulate us. No one seems to doubt that we’ll make it now. I doubted it a couple of times, but the pessimists unwittingly provided motivation whenever I got my dobber down. I imagine the pessimists had a similar impact on Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson.

Two states will be checked off the list tomorrow — New Hampshire and Maine.

Postscript: The trip is now over as I add this information. We watched “Horatio’s Drive” on PBS, and we absolutely loved it. We recently rented it from Netflix, and we enjoyed it even more the second time. We also purchased the book, “Horatio’s Drive” from amazon.com, and I have really enjoyed reading it.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Burlington Vermont — Horatio Nelson Jackson’s Home — Dick Mazza’s General Store — Ethan Allen Homestead — Vermont Teddy Bear Factory — Shelburne Museum — Shelburne Farm — Church Street Marketplace — Henry’s Diner — Whale Tails — Ben & Jerry’s Factory — Montpelier Vermont